Times Bulletin Correspondent
VAN WERT — It has been many years since Diana May started going to the Hospital Thrift Shop to purchase clothes, shoes and other needs for her daughter, Heather (Bartal).
Many years later, when Bartal was a registered nurse at the Van Wert County Hospital, Twig (the umbrella organization for thrift shop) used funds raised in the shop to purchase a bladder scanner for the hospital.
At the time, Bartal said to her mother, “thank you so much. It makes it so much easier for the patients.”
These days, the thrift shop is in its fourtieth year of operation and May is its manager, the only paid employee working at the thrift shop. To go from the day when she used to purchase clothes for Heather to the day when Heather thanked her for a generous donation to the hospital was going full circle in the outreach of the Twig fund.
The thrift shop is operated by Twig One and Two, two fund-raising organizations with a mission of purchasing equipment or special needs for the county hospital, based on funds raised at the shop. All money taken in from the shop is placed in a fund under the supervision of the All-Twig Board. Board members then decide how money is used in best ways to benefit the hospital.
For the past seven years, May has served as the manager of the facility, located at 131 E. Central Ave. in Van Wert. Prior to that, she had served as a volunteer for many years. “I shopped up here when my daughter was a baby,” observed May.
“They close every Wednesday and mark the new clothing and shoes that come in. When they open on Thursday, sometimes there are lines of people waiting to pick through the new clothes and shoe items.” Over the years, May has been employed by B K Root Beer, Crescent Laundry and Dry Cleaners and Schumm’s Plumbing. She has also had a regimen of working at the American Legion in the mornings and the thrift shop in the afternoon.
Over the years, May said it has been the goal of the shop to not only raise money for the hospital, but to serve the customers and the community. “Our money stays local,” said May. “Everything we get in, we try to sell here, if sellable. The prices are lower than they used to be. There are some people in Van Wert that this is all they can afford.
“We don’t purchase any advertising, even with our phone, we don’t make any long distance calls,” continued May. We are really strict with our money. I really enjoy getting to know the customers that come in,” added May. “It’s amazing; people come in from out of town and outside of the community.”
In addition to selling items, May noted that the store usually has some information about sight-seeing and interesting things to visit in the Van Wert area. “We try to promote the community all that we can. If someone needs to know where someplace is located, we try to help them,” added May. “People never realize what their donations can mean. They might purchase something for the hospital that results in their own personal care someday.”
Personally, May has experienced lots of need for personal care with those she loves over the years. Her husband, Freeman, is a cancer survivor. In fact, he was diagnosed in 1985 and given two years to live. Thankfully, 29 years later, he is still living, as is her mother, 92-years of age and also a cancer survivor. Bartal spent seven years working at the local hospital before transferring to the Triumph Medical Center, connected with St. Rita’s in Lima. These days, she is working at Lee County Hospital in Fort Myers, Fla. Bartal’s husband, Greg, is employed in the emergency room at the Cape Corral Hospital.
“It’s amazing, the little miracles that happen in the Thrift Shop,” said May. “Volunteers know that some people who come in can’t afford what they need so they (volunteers) will pay for what they need. I’ve seen it where someone standing at the cash register didn’t have the money and another customer standing at the cash register pays for them. Later they (original customer) returned to pay for someone else’s needs. Paying forward is something that is one of the joys of working here,” noted May.